The ambitious Air Kerala project received a shot in the arm with Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh hinting that the government will relax the minimum requirements for Indian carriers to fly overseas.
Under the prevailing rules, Indian carriers must have 20 aircraft and five years of experience, which was considered a major barrier to realise the Air Kerala project.
Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) Managing Director V J Kurian said the Minister’s statement is a giant leap for the state.
“The Union Minister’s statement is a major step in the realisation of the Air Kerala project. As part of the feasibility study, the profitability of the airline and the routes would be examined.
During the ‘Emerging Kerala’ event, our main request to the Prime Minister was relaxation in guidelines of the aviation sector to Air Kerala.
“I believe the recent statement came as a result of the effective lobbying from the state. The number of flights in the initial stage will be finalised after the publication of the revised guidelines,” he said.
He will submit the feasibility report of the project by December-end as entrusted by the CIAL Director Board on September 8.
Indian carriers have been lobbying for an amendment as foreign airlines operating to India do not face any such restrictions in their countries.
Foreign airlines control about 65 per cent of all international traffic from India and in recent years several start-up airlines from the Gulf have launched flights to multiple locations in India.
“Air Kerala project will not take off without relaxing the present guidelines. So, the minister’s statement can be seen as a major boost for the project. Now the ball is in the court of the state government,” said a top official from the aviation sector.
Giving wings to the Air Kerala project, the first meeting of the board of directors chaired by the Chief Minister on September 14 decided to allot shares to the public at a minimum value of `10,000. The estimated capital base will `200 crore. The state govt, CIAL and PSUs in the state would jointly invest 26 per cent of this amount while the rest would come from public participation.
“Considering the step-motherly treatment by the airline companies to the passengers from Kerala, its high time that Air Kerala be floated,” said Paulose K Mathew, chairman, Air Travel Agents’ Federation of India - Kerala.
“Countries like Malaysia and Singapore are operating flights to Kerala, but no Indian flights are available to these countries from Kerala. Utilising the bilateral agreement, Air Kerala can easily target these routes. With the ministers statement, we have got the green signal from the Centre, now it is time to speed things up and make Air Kerala a reality,” he added.